He pushed, he prodded, and he put all of his finest oratory skills to work. And now, after a grueling debt ceiling debate, President Obama has a House and Senate bill to sign. But – wait – if he really wanted to take a hard line and “git ‘er done,” shouldn’t he have just pulled a Reagan, picked up a pen, and written a proposal himself?
It was a missed opportunity, Bob Grady, Managing Director and Partner of Cheyenne Capital, told me this morning on “Worldwide Exchange.” But he added that Obama will have another chance once the “super-committee” convenes to hammer out the bill’s details.
“I think the opportunity still exists because the bigger game is not this first phase of cuts,” Grady said. The second phase will be crucial, he said, and decided by a bipartisan commission. “That’s the larger issue: What are we going to do about the long-term deficit picture driven by, I say, entitlements?”
He said it was “curious” that throughout this historic debate, Obama never stepped forward with a proposal of his own—like President Reagan did with the Kemp-Roth tax cuts, President Clinton with welfare reform, or President H.W. Bush with the Clean air Act.
“Those debates started by the president making a proposal and then going out and educating the American people about that proposal,” Grady said. But it’s not just about taking initiative and spreading the word, he added; picking up the pen has time and again been effective.
For more recent examples of budget triumphs, one needs to look no farther than his boss, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. (Grady serves as the governor's economic advisor) He credited Christie's shoe leather for success in balancing two budgets in a row without raising taxes: “He made a specific proposal and he went and had a town hall in every single county in the state and he went and negotiated with the democrats and he got about 80% of what he wanted.”
But Obama has yet to come forward, despite his talk of holding meetings and taking a stand, Grady said. “His budget was defeated, 97-0. He didn't stand up and endorse his own commission.”
And there’s that word again: “curious.”
“It's so curious he hasn't made a detailed legislative proposal for how we're going to address these problems, and that's why he hasn't controlled the debate,” Grady said.
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